Tigers have long prowled the pages of literature, from William Blake’s “The Tyger”, in which he imagines a “tyger, tyger, burning bright/ In the forests of the night”, to the Booker prize-winning Life of Pi by Yann Martel, in which the question of whether the tiger is real or imagined confounds and delights to the end. That question of how real the tiger is also becomes central to The Night Guest by Fiona McFarlane, a highly accomplished debut shortlisted for the Miles Franklin award and the Stella prize. Lonely widow Ruth wakes at 4am in her isolated house on the coast of New South Wales, Australia, sure that she can hear a tiger inside, so sure of some presence that she phones her son Jeffrey in New Zealand, yet also aware that the tiger might not truly be in the house, but in her mind alone. After all, she hasn’t seen the tiger but heard the panting of a large animal, “a vibrancy of breath that suggested enormity and intent”. Enormity and intent arrive the next morning, in the form of an unexpected human visitor, Frida, claiming to be a government carer, charged with helping 75-year-old Ruth with her daily… Read full this story
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